To Catch Her Death (The Grim Reality Series Book 1)

 

 

To Catch Her Death

 

 

 

 

 

Book One

In The Grim Reality Series

 

 

 

 

by Boone Brux

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2013 Boone Brux. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For more information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the author.
[email protected]

 

Edited by Tina Winogrand

Cover Design by Jennifer Meyer & Hot Damn Designs

 

Print ISBN: 9781938601125

eBook ISBN: 9781626228504

 

 

This book is dedicated to my sister, Lisa. Though many miles separate us, you are always in my heart…and now my books.

Acknowledgments

 

 

 

I want to thank Sandy Shacklett for her fantastic title idea. I give all the credit for its creativity to her. Thanks to Jennifer Meyer, who did an absolutely stunning job on my cover. I’m amazed every time I see one of your creations.

 

I’d also like to thank and praise my critique group, the Critwhores. You guys have continued to encourage me with this series and I’ll be forever grateful.

 

Huge thanks go to my editor, Tina, for doing the hard work.

 

I’d also like to thank CJ Ellisson for her support during this long process. Your encouragement kept me going when I doubted myself. For that I will always be grateful.

CHAPTER ONE

Being a widow
wasn’t as glamorous as it sounded. Unless a person had the money to grieve properly—say in a tropical country, drowning in endless Mai Tais—it really kind of sucked.

I should know. I’ve been a widow for a year now. Twelve long months of clawing my way through each day. My name is Lisa Carron. I’m a thirty-five year old, single mother of three, and today is the one year anniversary of my husband Jeff’s death.

It was also a year ago today I started letting my appearance slide. Grief will do that to you. Lay you low and drag you into dark places you never thought you’d go. In my case it was carbs and elastic waistbands.

For the last year my kids had come first, my depression last. Tasks like dressing and combing my hair took a back seat to more important activities, such as lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling, or scouring the cabinets for spilled chocolate chips. None of my pre-widow clothes fit anymore. Still, I hadn’t been motivated to clear off my treadmill and fire that baby up.

One aspect of widowhood I had enjoyed was wearing black. I know that wasn’t a thing anymore, unless you’re an elderly lady from the old country, but I embraced it none the less—maybe a little too enthusiastically. Everything I owned was black.

I’d fallen into a rut and until a few days ago, when my daughter casually suggested I run a comb through my hair as to not scare the neighbor kids, I hadn’t realized how far I’d sunk. That was my
Aha
moment. It was then I’d realized my kids had weathered the crisis of their father’s death and emerged on the other side in far better shape than me.

The revelation was bittersweet. I mean, kudos to me for being an awesome mom but damn. My frizzy ponytail belonged on the backend of a horse. My nails looked like I’d been buried alive and clawed my way out of the grave. In a word—I was a hot mess. What I needed was a long dip in Lake Lisa.

Determined to get my act together, I dropped off the spawn of my loins at my parents’ house for the weekend. Once back home, I popped a cork on a bottle of Riesling, sat at the table, and planned out two kid-free days. The excitement made me a little giddy—or maybe it was the wine—anyway, for the first time in a year, I sketched out a Saturday that was all about me.

That night I slept like a baby and when morning dawned, I rolled out of bed ready to face the day. A slight ache beat against the inside of my skull, but it was nothing a few aspirin couldn’t cure. Plus, the Riesling had totally been worth it.

I showered and headed to the Holiday gas station near my friend Vella’s hair salon. Getting my hair done was number two on my list. Buying my bucket of soda number one. The sugary nectar was the only legal substance I knew that gave me the sustained energy I needed to get through my day of errands—and sadly, the main reason I’d become a little fluffy.

Before I could shut off Omar, my ancient minivan,
The Hokie Pokie
, my mom’s special ringtone, erupted in my purse. A million terrible scenarios sped through my mind. Fine, maybe I wasn’t completely comfortable with being away from my kids.

I flipped off the ignition and scrambled to find my phone. “Are the kids okay?”

“They’re fine, sweetheart.” Mom’s placating voice soothed my panic back to a normal level. A small plane from the nearby airport buzzed over the car. “Where are you? I hear traffic. Are you running errands?”

Translation, did you get your big butt out of bed?

“Yes, I’m at the Holiday station near Merrill Field. I’m getting gas,” I lied, not needing the lecture on the hundred ways soda could kill me. “Did you need something?”

“It’s sixteen degrees out.”
Temperature update brought to you by my mother, the neighborhood weather monitor.
“Are you wearing your winter coat?”

“No, it’s not that cold.” Refusing to wear my parka until it hit zero had been something I’d done since I was a teenager—a personal affirmation that I was an Alaskan woman. Plus, it irritated the hell out of Mom, so I’d kept up the tradition. Childish, I know, but some days I just needed that win.

“You and that stupid habit. One day you’re going to catch your death.” Her heavy sigh hissed through the receiver. “Anyway, what do you have planned for today?”

“I’m on my way to Vella’s to get my hair cut.” Vella was my best friend and supreme ruler of all hairstylists in the universe. “Possibly my nails.”

“Oh good, you were starting to look like a mangy Cocker Spaniel. Have her hit those roots with a little color too. You’ll feel better.”

Translation,
she’d
feel better.

Having grown up with Mom’s backhanded comments; I now ignored them—for the most part. I was secure in my frumpiness and looked passably acceptable to be seen in public, though Bronte, my daughter, would argue that point.

“Mom, are you sure you’re okay keeping the kids this weekend? I can get them after my hair appointment.”

“Nonsense. We’re making ghost sugar cookies for Halloween and your father is pulling out his gun collection later.”

In the background I heard a collective cheer from my twin sons. “Are you nuts? Do not let the boys anywhere near those weapons.”

“They’re just show pieces, honey. The boys will be fine.”

Show pieces my ass.

“Uh huh.” My father was a retired cop and had an unhealthy obsession with firearms. But arguing with my mother was pointless. It was a sad state of affairs when a fifteen year old was the most responsible person in residence. “Could you put Bronte on the phone?”

Several seconds of silence passed until my daughter came on the line. “Yo.”

“Hey, do me a favor and make sure the boys don’t touch Grandpa’s guns.”

She gave me her perfected annoyed-teenager-grunt. “How? They don’t listen to me.”

“You’re clever. Figure something out.” Bronte was more devious than both her brothers combined. It was a trait I stopped fighting and now used to my benefit. “If the boys come home unharmed, I’ll buy you those hockey skates you want.” Even though they weren’t top of the line the skates would still set me back. But my kids’ safety was worth it. “We’ll get them after I pick you up Sunday.”


Right
after you pick us up?”

“I promise.” I couldn’t waffle or she’d think I was bluffing. “Straight from grandma’s house to the store.”

She was silent for a few seconds, but I had her. She’d been asking for new hockey skates since last season. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, sweetie. Tell Grandma I’ll call her later. And hey…Mommy loves you.”

Bronte made a gagging sound and ended the call. I smiled, knowing nobody would be going near my father’s gun collection.

I dropped the phone into my purse and opened my van door. It squawked in protest, the loud kind that made everybody cringe and turn to stare. I kept meaning to have my dad look at it, but then I’d be subjected to my mother’s endless affirmations on how to
bounce back
from losing Jeff. Like she knew anything about being a widow. Sure, it might seem like my dad was dead when he sat in his chair watching TV, but he’s just quiet. I’m almost certain my mother hadn’t drained
all
the life out of him—yet. So I lived with judgmental looks and knowledge that one more thing in my life was falling apart.

The cold October wind swirled around me and slipped between the collar of my black polar fleece jacket and neck. Shivers rippled along my shoulders. I yanked the zipper up and walked to the front door, tilting my chin toward the sky. I hated when my breath flash froze the material of my jacket to my face. It was like a mini wax job. Considering the lack of attention I’d given my upper lip over the last year, I wasn’t taking any chances.

I pulled open the glass door to the convenience store and held it for a large, bald guy with bad manners and a worse looking trench coat. His dark eyes darted to me and then away. Hunched and limping, he slumped past without as much as a
thank you.
Rude bastard. Normally I would have graced him with one of my famous snarky comments, but the way he skulked past sent a serious case of the heebie-jeebies up my spine. Instead, I ignored him and headed for the soda machine.

Something about fountain pop made it better than drinking it from a plastic bottle. Maybe there’s more fizz, less sweetness. Maybe it’s the straw. A lot of things taste better with a straw. That’s not a proven scientific fact, just my personal opinion. Let’s just way I have researched soda drinking over the years.

Mr. No Manners slinked past and around the back of the store to the refrigerated section. I focused on getting my jumbo beverage, not making eye contact with him. A cellophane wrapper crinkled behind me, drawing my attention. I glanced over my shoulder. The first thing I saw were firm, male buns. The man straightened and perused the artificial ingredients on a package of pastries.

I silently scoffed. From his trim physique and well-rounded tush, it was obvious this guy had never enjoyed the luscious processed goodness of a mass-made pastry. He was too fit—too outdoorsy looking, with his healthy glow and casually tousled brown hair. He definitely gave off an Alaskan man vibe—
I hike, compost, and brew my own beer from wild berries I picked myself.
Yeah, I knew the type well. People like him rarely bought anything that contained more than three ingredients, and those pastries were only eaten by hardcore junk-foodies. I never touched them myself. The texture reminded me of soggy florist foam or crumbling sheet rock. Not that I’ve ever eaten either.

Still—I might have been a grieving widow but I wasn’t dead. After one more appreciative look I returned my attention to filling the vat of soda.

As I slid my thumbs along the edge of the plastic lid to snap it on the cup, a deep voice shouted, “Give me all your cash.”

My head whipped toward the front of the convenience store. Mr. Bad Manners held a shot gun pointed directly at Doug and Roger, the mini-mart cashiers. Yeah, we we’re on a first name basis.

Like a heavy rock sinking into thick mud, the situation registered in my brain.
Holy crap, it was a fricken’ holdup.

My fingers dug into my soda cup, my eyes growing wide as paralyzing fear rushed through me. I think I stopped breathing, not wanting to draw the robber’s attention. My first thought was of my kids. Things were finally getting back to normal. Well, as normal as they could be. No way was I going attempt some adrenaline inspired hero crap that would no doubt get me killed.

From those thoughts of survival, my mind quickly jumped to the fact that I might be on the nightly news and probably should have dressed better. Random Thought Syndrome—I was one of its many sufferers.

The snack cake guy stood unmoving. It didn’t appear any of us patrons were looking to be local heroes, or from the robber’s crazed stare, a possible fatality.

Rock music from the local radio station filled the silence. I mentally urged Doug or Roger to start shoving cash into a bag, but neither moved. Unfortunately, it seemed I didn’t possess Jedi mind powers.

“Money! Now!” Sweat trickled down the robber’s stubbly face and he waved the shotgun at the boys. His head flicked several times to the side, as if he had a nervous tick. Nervous tick equaled itchy trigger finger as far as I was concerned.

“Don’t shoot, sir,” Doug finally said. He reached toward the cash register and punched a button. The till dinged and the drawer slid open. “I’m just gonna get a bag to put the money in, okay?”

Good move, Doug.

“Hurry up.” The robber glanced around the store, his gaze lingering on me longer than I liked, before darting back to the cashier. “And don’t trip the alarm.”

Doug nodded. His hair, a substantial sandy blond fro with a huge comb sticking out the side, bounced up and down like a dandelion puff bobbing in the breeze. Plastic bags crackled as he attempted to work it free it from the pile. Cars sped along Glenn Highway beyond the large glass windows, completely oblivious to the ensuing robbery and the innocent patrons inside. My heart beat against my throat and my mouth went dry. Taking a sip of my soda was tempting but the scene with tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park kept playing in my mind.

Don’t move. Don’t even breathe. Maybe this monster wouldn’t notice you.

Seconds ticked by and still Doug fumbled under the counter. I knew these two college guys weren’t the brightest bulbs in the string of lights, but seriously, how hard was it to get a stupid grocery sack?

Doug crouched slightly and when he straightened, he held a big ass revolver aimed at the bald guy.

Time seemed to slow.

Several things happen at once. The robber’s eyes widened, comprehension that the cashier now sported some serious firepower dawning. His gun jerked up and before I had time to drop to the floor, Doug pulled the trigger.

The revolver exploded, catapulting the criminal backward into the stand of chips. He slithered to the white tile floor in a cacophony of crumpling cellophane. The ringing in my ears ricocheted through my head and my feet seemed rooted in place. Nobody moved. We just stood there with our mouths hanging open.

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